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Michigan ORV owners beware

July 31, 2008 by Steven M. Gursten

Off road vehicle (ORV) drivers or passengers who suffer personal injury in Michigan highway accidents will now have little legal recourse for their pain and suffering.

On July 17, 2008, Michigan House Bill 5559 was signed into law, Public Act 241 of 2008. It amended section 3101 of the Michigan no fault act to exclude unregistered and uninsured ORVs from the definition of motor vehicle. The definition of motorcycle has also been amended to exclude ORVs.

The vast majority of ORVs in Michigan are unregistered and uninsured.

As Michigan personal injury lawyers handling motor vehicle accidents, including ORV injury accidents involving cars and trucks, we feel this change will have terrible ramifications for ORV drivers and devastating consequences for innocent passengers who are injured through another driver’s negligence.

Unknowing ORV users can’t get some insurance benefits

That’s because now, an ORV driver or passenger who is involved in a single-vehicle accident with a four-wheel ORV or a pedestrian hit by a four-wheel ORV, will not be entitled to personal protection insurance benefits — unless the ORV was registered for use on a public highway and insured as a motor vehicle.

This wouldn’t be as bad if ORV drivers and owners were provided advance notice of the dramatic change in the law, which strips away their legal protection. But no notice has been provided. The change in the Michigan no fault act was made so swiftly and quietly that all ORV owners are still completely unaware that they are now essentially uninsured and barred from all Michigan no fault personal protection insurance benefits if they suffer accidental injury while using an ORV. If the change took the attorneys in this law office — which specializes in no fault insurance — by surprise, then it will take many others by surprise as well.

Insurance companies benefit from change

Injured ORV drivers and passengers are currently not entitled to personal injury protection benefits unless a motor vehicle is also involved in the accident with the ORV.
Michigan Auto Law believes insurance companies are basking in the change; and it is hard to justify when Michigan’s auto insurance companies already lead the nation in profits, according to an Angoff study published last year. The change seems just another opportunity for insurance companies to save big bucks at the expense of the public.
Therefore, it’s imperative that ORV users insure their ORVs as motor vehicles and register them for use on highways, so in case of an accident, they are at least partly protected.

Definitions according to Public Act 241 of 2008

“‘ORV‘ means a motor-driven recreation vehicle designed for off-road use and capable of cross-country travel without benefit of road or trail, on or immediately over land, snow, ice, marsh, swampland or other natural terrain. ORV includes, but is not limited to, a multi-track or multi-wheel drive vehicle, a motorcycle or related two-wheel, three-wheel, or four-wheel vehicle, an amphibious machine, a ground effect air cushion vehicle, an ATV as defined in section 81101 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.81101, or other means of transportation deriving motive power from a source other than muscle or wind. ORV does not include a vehicle described in this subdivision that is registered for use upon a public highway and has the security described in section 3101 or 3103 in effect.”
– Section 3101(2)(g)

“‘Motorcycle‘ means a vehicle having a saddle or seat for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, which is equipped with a motor that exceeds 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement. The wheels on any attachment to the vehicle shall not be considered as wheels in contact with the ground. Motorcycle does not include a moped, as defined in section 32b of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.32b. Motorcycle does not include an ORV.
– Section 3101(2)(c)

“‘Motor vehicle‘ means a vehicle, including a trailer, operated or designed for operation upon a public highway by power other than muscular power which has more than two wheels. Motor vehicle does not include a motorcycle or a moped, as defined in section 32b of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.32b. Motor vehicle does not include a farm tractor or other implement of husbandry which is not subject to the registration requirements of the Michigan Vehicle Code pursuant to section 216 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.216. Motor vehicle does not include an ORV.
– Section 3101(2)(e)

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3 Replies to “Michigan ORV owners beware”

  1. Will this new change in excluding ORVs /ATVs from being considered a motor vehicle have any effect on cases prior to the change?

  2. Dan, unfortunately we already have a split of authority in this most recent legislative change removing ORV/ATV’s from the definition of “motor vehicle.” The leading textbook author on No-Fault law stated that the legislation had prospective effect, but a Macomb County judge just ruled that it was retrospective. There will probably need to be a Court of Appeals decision to clarify. When this happens, we will post the answer. Sorry to not be able to answer the question for you. Call me if you want to discuss.

  3. To clarify, Judge Miller in Macomb has ruled that it is retroactive, notwithstanding the opinion of many lawyers, including the defense lawyers in that case, indicating it is prospective only. There hasn’t been sufficient time to get an appellate opinion in this regard.

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